No surprise here, I think Neverwinter is a great game. Many people don’t and that’s great too. I comment a fair bit that it’s amazing that we’re in a time where there are more games for more flavors than just a few years ago and the WoW-clone-a-thon.
Neverwinter’s F2P model is slightly different in the MMO space as it was designed with two things in mind. First, it’s a western MMO, where combat is an integral part of the game with a relatively small social toolset. Second, it was designed as F2P from the start, based on a lot of experience from Champions Online and Star Trek Online. The only knock I have against their model is the constant spam about people “winning” items from lockboxes. Peer pressure and all that I guess.
You can play Neverwinter from start to finish without dropping a dime. Your experience is not diminished in the least. You can play the end-game content without money too. The auction house works with Astral Diamonds, which are fairly simple to acquire. Zen (the unified Cryptic currency for real cash) allows you to purchase player customizations, such as respec tokens, other companions and mounts. Oh, you can also trade Astral Diamonds for Zen.
Respec tokens are useful but not something required to play. Pick a spec and have fun. You shouldn’t really be swapping between choices all that much, given the large “point padding” provided. You can get most skills you would need pretty easily. Plus, if there’s a patch with significant balance changes, free respec!
Companions are a bit different. For leveling are the start of end game, they are relatively bland choices and have not much impact. If you want to do top-tier gaming, then a zen-cost companion does have some benefit. Not much mind you, maybe a 5% difference, so only the min-maxers really care.
If you want to fool around with costumes, then Zen comes into play and that’s super. Player customization is entirely optional. Mounts too, since each zone is relatively compact and the difference between a basic 60% and a 90% mount is pretty negligible on the whole.
So what did I spend? I put in $30 for 3,000 Zen. It gave me a new character slot and some customization. If this had been a sub game, I would have spent a lot more than $30. This way, I can come and go and feel that I am the one deciding where to put my money and when I can play. Would I have subscribed if that option was available? If that would have unlocked everything and there was no store, most definitely. However, even games with a hybrid model offer a store, which drastically reduces my enjoyment. SWTORs non-sub hurdles are notoriously bad, as an example.
So yes, I support Cryptic’s F2P model for Neverwinter. I think it’s one of the most “fair” implementations I have found in any online game. Marvel Heroes follows a similar model, in terms of lack of real restrictions. I’m kind of hoping that this style takes a hold across more games.